About this period the people were much incensed at an act committed by a person who held an office in the Custom House. Some lads, or young men, were snowballing his windows. He fired a musket at them, and killed a poor German boy, only eleven years old. This event made a great noise in town and country, and much increased the resentment that was already felt against the servants of the crown.
"Now, children," said Grandfather, "I wish to make you comprehend the position of the British troops in King Street. This is the same which we now call State Street. On the south side of the Town House, or Old State House, was what military men call a court of guard, defended by two brass cannons, which pointed directly at one of the doors of the above edifice. A large party of soldiers were always stationed in the court of guard. The Custom House stood at a little distance down King Street, nearly where the Suffolk Bank now stands, and a sentinel was continually pacing before its front."
"I shall remember this to-morrow," said Charley; "and I will go to State Street, so as to see exactly where the British troops were stationed."
"And before long," observed Grandfather, "I shall have to relate an event which made King Street sadly famous on both sides of the Atlantic. The history of our chair will soon bring us to this melancholy business.''
Here Grandfather described the state of things which arose from the ill will that existed between the inhabitants and the redcoats. The old and sober part of the townspeople were very angry at the government for sending soldiers to overawe them. But those gray-headed men were cautious, and kept their thoughts and feelings in their own breasts, without putting themselves in the way of the British bayonets.
The younger people, however, could hardly be kept within such prudent limits. They reddened with wrath at the very sight of a soldier, and would have been willing to come to blows with them at any moment. For it was their opinion that every tap of a British drum, within the peninsula of Boston was an insult to the brave old town.
"It was sometimes the case," continued Grandfather, "that affrays happened between such wild young men as these and small parties of the soldiers. No weapons had hitherto been used except fists or cudgels. But when men have loaded muskets in their hands, it is easy to foretell that they will soon be turned against the bosoms of those who provoke their anger."
"Grandfather," said little Alice, looking fearfully into his face, "your voice sounds as though you were going to tell us something awful!"